If you are a snowboarder and have a group of skier friends, you may be concerned about being able to keep up with them. You want to avoid being stuck at the back and feeling pressured by them waiting for you at the bottom of every slope. Skiers indeed have a technical advantage, allowing them to go much faster than snowboarders. However, it’s not as clear-cut as you might think.
Skiers are technically faster than snowboarders, and this is because of their more aerodynamic position, extra control from the two edges, and reduced friction on the snow. However, in the real world, speed often comes down to ability; therefore, many snowboarders are much faster than some skiers.
In this article, I will go into the technicalities of why skiers can go faster than snowboarders. I will also talk about why some snowboarders seem faster than everybody else and how you can ride much quicker to keep up with your skier friends.
The world record for the top speed of a snowboarder is 203 km an hour (126 mph). There is no doubt that this is pretty fast. However, the current world record for the quickest skier is 254 kph (157 mph).
This indicates that skiers are significantly quicker than snowboarders in controlled conditions. Why is this There are a few reasons why skiers are much faster than snowboarders; let’s take a look at them:
Skiers have a much more aerodynamic stance. The way they stand puts their body into a shape that cuts through the air much more efficiently, reducing drag.
This allows them to accelerate quickly and reach higher speeds.
The snowboard stance sees the rider standing sideways, which creates more wind resistance, holding them back from reaching the incredibly high speeds of skiers.
When snowboarders straight-lines a slope, they often have to stay on one edge or go from edge to edge to stay in control, especially at high speeds.
These constant adjustments limit how fast they can go. This is because if they run with a flat base, they run the risk of catching an edge, which can be disastrous when you’re riding fast.
Skiers don’t have this problem; they can put their skis on flat bases that give them more stability and control. Skiers also have two edges to provide security in variable snow conditions.
For example, during carve turns, if one ski releases on a patch of ice, they still have the edge of the other ski cutting into the snow, giving them grip.
If a snowboarder cuts across an icy patch, their one edge can slip, causing them to spin out.
The surface area of a pair of skis in contact with the snow is much less than a snowboard, which means a skier experiences less friction, allowing them to go faster.
Because of this, you’ll see skiers passing snowboarders on cat tracks with shallow gradients all the time.
Skiers and snowboarders have been riding together since snowboarders started to hit the slopes. There is nothing to stop skiers and snowboarders from enjoying the mountain together.
I often ride in mixed groups, and I find it great fun as it adds an extra dynamic to your day.
It’s always handy having a skier with you as well, especially when you get stuck on flat sections, as they can lend you a pole or tow you to the next downhill section.
I suppose it can be frustrating for a good skier if they have to wait for a snowboarder all the time. The most annoying time for them is when they are waiting for us to strap in at the top of every lift.
But it doesn’t take that long to strap in, and if it’s really a problem for them, they can find someone else to ride with.
As I already discussed, a skier is much faster under controlled conditions than a snowboarder. If you had a skier and a snowboarder with equal skill levels, the skier would be faster.
Going fast on a pair of skis is much easier than going fast on a snowboard.
Therefore, a snowboarder would have to be very confident and comfortable with speed to keep up with a skier if they were charging hard.
However, it’s now common knowledge that snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master than skiing. This is why you often see snowboarders going faster than skiers on the slopes.
There’s also a factor of a person’s mindset. Someone who likes to snowboard aggressively will always be much faster than a less committed skier.
There are a few ways snowboarders can increase their speed. You may not be able to catch a skier with a similar skill set.
However, these tips will have you hot on their heels or stop them complaining that they have to wait a long time for you.
Good quality snowboards have fast bases. For example, buying a snowboard with a sintered base will run much faster than one with an extruded base.
These fast-running snowboards will make you much closer to your skiing friends. If speed is your priority, you should also consider riding a stiffer snowboard.
Stiff snowboards are less forgiving than ones with low flex ratings, but you can put more pressure on the edges and ride faster.
Snowboards with low flex ratings are great for freestyle and beginners but start to chatter at high speeds, especially when the snow is choppy. This chatter reduces your control, so you have to back off a little bit.
If your snowboard hasn’t been serviced for a while, it will not run as fast as it should. Therefore, ensure your base has a good layer of wax and sharp edges.
Depending on how much you ride, you should wax your snowboard every couple of weeks.
Your edges don’t need sharpening as regularly; once or twice a season should do it, depending on the conditions.
When your edges are sharp, your turns will be precise and direct, giving you plenty of grip in the snow and keeping you in control and your speed up.
Choosing wax that perfectly suits the temperatures you’re riding in is a good idea. For example, if riding in subzero temperatures in January, you should buy some low-temperature wax.
On the contrary, if you’re riding closer to the spring, your wax should be suited to milder temperatures, improving your base’s glide in slushy conditions.
It would be best to store your snowboard between trips with a layer of storage wax. This will prevent your base from drying out so you can ride at a fast pace.
You can tell when a snowboard needs waxing as it will feel slower, especially on flat sections, and the base will have a whitening to it, or the color will be paler than it should be.
In extreme circumstances, your base will have an almost furry-like texture.
One of the things that slow snowboarders down the most is having to strap their back foot in when they get off the chair lift.
You can speed up the process dramatically by learning how to strap in while standing up. This is a relatively easy task, it also means you’re not in the way, and you can get riding much more quickly.
Another way you can speed up strapping in is to do it on the move. Sometimes you’ll be able to ride off the chairlift one footed and strap in while moving down the hill.
This takes some practice, and you can only do it in some places. It can be especially tricky if there are lots of people standing at the top of the lift.
If you’re riding with some skiers, they will greatly appreciate a swift departure from the top of the chair lift, even if they don’t tell you.
You can also speed it up by buying a step-in/on setup. These fast entry and exit bindings are much better than they used to be. In fact, they are probably the future of snowboarding in one form or another.
Your first turns on a snowboard will be skid turns. This is when the board slips out, spraying snow as you go around the turn.
Skid turns are great for stopping and staying in control; however, they scrub your speed. Instead of using skid turns, learn how to carve.
Carving is when you link turns by shifting from edge to edge without using the flat part of your base.
You can initiate your turn much sooner, meaning your snowboard points down the fall line longer, allowing you to pick up more speed.
Once you can carve properly, you can modify your carves by springing off the tail, accelerating you out of your turns.
This technique is used by slalom snowboard racers to squeeze out extra speed from a snowboard.
One of the most frustrating things for a snowboarder is flat sections.
When you approach a flat section with insufficient speed, you will have to either unstrap your back foot and scoot until you get to a slope or take your board off completely and walk.
This can really frustrate your skier friends because they will have made it across the flat section and need to wait for you.
To reduce the likelihood of coming to a stop on a flat section, you need to plan ahead. Keep your head up to assess how much speed you need, and start to straight-line as early as you dare.
When you straight-line your snowboard, you have a much better chance of keeping enough momentum to get over the flat section.
If you start to run out of steam along the flat section, you can pump the board using its camber by bending and extending your knees.
Another way you can keep momentum is by putting lots of pressure on your front foot, almost like a gas pedal; somehow, this helps you to accelerate on flat sections.
A skier will always be faster than a snowboarder through a mogul field. While skiers love mogul fields, many snowboarders avoid them like the plague.
Mogul fields are hard work for snowboarders; however, you can ride through them pretty quickly with the proper technique.
Personally, I quite like a mogul field because I like the challenge. The trick is to keep your head up and plan the next 2 to 3 turns between the moguls.
This helps you keep a rhythm, so you can keep your speed up and not get too far behind your skier friends.
Alternatively, you can make them wait and have fun, jumping from one mogul to the other.
This is actually excellent practice for your ollies, landings, and keeping momentum. Riding moguls like this is exhausting, but it’s lots of fun.
Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, speed is fun and adds a dangerous element to the sports, making them exciting.
If skiing and snowboarding didn’t have an element of danger, they would be boring. However, there’s a time in a place for everything.
If your skier friends charge off into the distance, you will obviously want and need to keep up with them. But don’t do it at the risk of injuring yourself and other people on the slopes; it’s just not worth it.
There’s a good chance you won’t catch them anyway.
One of my pet hates on the mountain are people skiing and snowboarding at inappropriate speeds. It’s fine when there’s nobody around, and you can stay in control.
Still, there are circumstances when you should dial back the speed, for example, at the end of the day when everyone is heading down the mountain.
This is when the slopes are busy, and there’s no need to be riding at flat-out speeds, cutting people up, and just trying to get past everyone.
It’s much better to chill out and stick to the side of the slopes where the snow is nice and there are fewer people.
Another example of when you should keep your speed down is when you’re approaching the lift line.
You don’t need to blast into the lift line and stop at the last second before plowing into everyone waiting at the bottom.
Anything could happen that will send you crashing into people, such as a patch of ice or somebody moving in front of you.
You sometimes see skiers and snowboarders going incredibly fast down busy green runs. Green runs are designated for inexperienced skiers and snowboarders.
These guys can be unpredictable, and they don’t know that you could be coming up behind them at high speed.
Therefore, when you get to one of these slopes, slow down and respect that everybody has to start somewhere.
Technically skiers are faster than snowboarders. However, many snowboarders have the ability and mindset to reach higher speeds than most of the skiers you see on the mountain.
This is possibly because snowboarding has a steeper learning curve. Once you get over the beginner stage, you can get more comfortable riding at high speeds.
Alternatively, the snowboarder mentality is slightly different from the skiers, but it doesn’t stop skiers and snowboarders from riding together.